Women Who Think Too Much - Susan Nolen-Hoeksema
When Women Who Think Too Much came out, I gobbled it up in two sittings. Several people have borrowed this book from me, and have found it incredibly insightful. (And not all have been women, either!) This book features a breakthrough new method that teaches you how to free yourself from the negative cycles of overthinking.

What is overthinking? Nolen-Hoeksma, a professor of Psychology, contends that our society is both fast-paced and overly-self-analytical. The self-help section in bookstores bulge with upteen ways to analyze yourself and gaze at your bellybutton. With this self-analysis comes over-thinking--and Nolen-Hoeksema has discovered that women are more prone to overthink than men. Women spend countless hours fruitlessly thinking about negative ideas, feelings, experiences, and relationships. The result of this over-thinking? A huge number of women are feeling sad, anxious, or seriously depressed.

The author provides case studies, but they aren't presented in a dry, intellectual tone. She connects the dots between the research and how it impacts women in their day-to-day lives. Chapter titles include What's Wrong With OverThinking?, Married to My Worries: Overthinking Intimate Relationships, Always On The Job: Overthinking Work and Careers, and ten other chapters. The great thing about Women Who Think Too Much is that it doesn't just talk about why overthinking is bad for mental, emotional, and even physical health, but also provides several chapters on how to break free from overthinking and move to higher ground.

In the Chapter If It Hurts So Much, Why Do We Do It?, the author explains fascinating discoveries in brain science, and how when we think of one bad thing, it usually cascades into a torrent of negative thoughts and emotions. She writes:

"The organization of our brain sets us up for overthinking. Each little thought and memory we hold in our mind does not sit there isolated and independent from other thoughts. Instead, our thoughts are woven together in intricate networks of associations...This intricate organization of the brain into in interconnected networks of memories, thoughts, and feelings greatly increases our efficiency of thinking. It's what helps us see similarities and connections between issues...But our spiderweb of a brain also makes it easy to overthink. In particular, the fact that negative mood connects negative thoughts and memories, even when these thoughts and memories have nothing else to do with one another, sets us up for overthinking. When you are in a bad mood for any reason, your mood activates--literally lights up--those nodes of your brain that hold negative memories from the past and negative ways of thinkings. This makes them highly accessible: it's easier to get there with your conscious thoughts. This is why it is easier to think of negative things when you are in a bad mood than when you are in a good mood. It is also easier to see interconnections between the bad things in your life when you are in a bad mood..."

The author describes three phases of conquering overthinking, and covers each phase in separate chapters: breaking free of its grip, moving to higher ground and gaining a new perspective, and avoiding future traps by building your resources. Not only does she provide example scenarios of how to implement these strategies, but she also has a quick reference section in chart form at the end of each of these chapters. For example:

Strategy: Don't go there.
Description: Choose not to get involved in situations that arouse overthinking.
Example: Jan knew that spending too much time with her mother was sure to result in weeks of overthinking, so she kept her visits short.

Another example:

Strategy: Let go of unhealthy goals
Description: Let go of goals that are impossible or that cause you to act self-destructively.
Example: Briana decided that rather than try to lose 50 pounds by starving herself, she would lose 20 with a diet prescribed by her doctor.

I highly recommend Women Who Think Too Much for anyone interested in neuro-science and the thought/emotion connection, as well as those looking for pratical strategies to manage negative self-talk and unproductive mental chatter.

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